Police Hesitant to Bust Young, Illegal Cyclists in Fort Tryon Park

By Lindsay Armstrong on August 12, 2014 7:24am 

INWOOD — Police are shying away from trying to block bike riders illegally pedaling through Fort Tryon Park — saying they're too young to be ticketed but don't deserve to be arrested.

Pedestrians have long expressed frustration with the cyclists who regularly rip through the park's pathways, narrowly missing those on foot as they zip around sharp curves. In some cases, bikers spark crashes, slamming into and injuring parkgoers, locals said.

But police sources said their hands are tied because most of the bikers are juveniles, and officers are barred from writing desk appearance tickets for offenders under the age of 16 under state law, according to the NYPD.

As a result, the only option for officers dealing with offenders under the age of 16 is to arrest them — a harsh punishment that officers from the 34th Precinct assigned to monitor the park every day are hesitant to dole out, police sources said.

An arrest would trigger a trip through the juvenile criminal justice system, likely leading to an appearance in family court, according to a police source. Were the bike riders older than 18, they'd get off with simply paying a fine, the source said.

Some residents have suggested the Parks Department install speed bumps or rumble strips to slow bikers down and reduce the dangerous impact of run-ins with pedestrians.

But the Parks Department said that such measures have not proved effective in deterring bikers in other parks and that they prevent snowplows from operating on steep pathways.

Phil Abramson, a spokesman for the Park Department, said the agency would consider increased enforcement by department personnel in light of the concerns. 

“Bicycling is not permitted on pedestrian paths and we share the community's concern about this practice,” Abramson said, adding that skateboards and in-line skates are also prohibited in the park. “Signs are posted stating this prohibition and we will see if enforcement personnel can be deployed to this location in order to best deter the activity.”

 Signs at the path entrances warn people that bike riding is not allowed.
Signs at the path entrances warn people that bike riding is not allowed.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

Signs at the park’s entrance warn cyclists that riding is off-limits, and many of the parks paths are stenciled with “No Bikes” warnings.

Residents said more must be done to enforce the no-bike law.

Byung Soh, 76, a volunteer gardener who looks after planting beds in the park, said he was hit last year by a teen cyclist riding down the hill near the dog run and suffered nerve damage when the biker ran over his left foot.

“I was cleaning up trash along the path and this youngster came down the hill, speeding up,” Soh said. “I moved to get out of his way. He tried to avoid me, but moved the same way I did.”

Peter Levy, 60, who helps manage the park’s dog run, said he's also had to dodge bikers.

“We have these hilly paths that people just come flying down,” Levy said, “I was walking once with my friend and his wife and their infant, and a bike came up on us so fast that she jumped out of the way with the baby.”

Residents said that the problem has gotten worse in recent years.

“I have noticed more and more people riding bikes in the park,” said Nathan Currier, 52. “The other day I saw a scooter going through at about 35 miles per hour — an electric scooter — which is a whole different level of craziness.”

Soh said that despite the age issue, police still needed to take more action to curb the problem.

“It’s a serious thing," he said. "So many people have gotten hurt. We need to take it seriously."

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